Do you read books anymore?

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Reading, it seems, is a disappearing pastime. People are generally spending less time reading books (as in real books) in exchange for fleetingly reading (or skimming) texts online, watching TV and what not.

When the French Culture Minister, Fleur Pellerin, recently stated that she hadn’t read any of author Patrick Modiano’s novels (he won this year’s Nobel Prize for Litterature)…and that she hadn’t read a novel in two years, it blew up in the media. A culture minister who doesn’t have the time of day to read? Could there really be such a thing?

Admittedly, I haven’t read any of Modiano’s novels either. In fact, I’d never heard of the guy (as I’m sure a lot of people haven’t).

But the whole incident is very telling of our current cultural situation, which is apparently dwindling before our very eyes. There are fewer and fewer people who actually read FOR FUN. There’s been an American study showing that numbers are falling off the chart and also a British one, showing that almost 4 million people NEVER READ FOR FUN.

Why? Because work takes up too much time and when people get home from work, they’re simply too exhausted to pick up a book. Or they have other things to do like family chores, making dinner, tending to the kids, spouse, etc.

However understandable that is, it’s still a shame.

I get it. I’m trapped in that scenario too, although mine is a bit more flexible. I’m my own boss so I am very fortunate that I get to decide my hours at work. I don’t have kids, which gives me a lot of free time on my hands. However, when I think back to how much I used to read (and do other things) as a kid or as a student, I’m slightly ashamed. Maybe “ashamed” isn’t the right word, but I’m certainly wondering how I was able to manage a full day of school, homework, after school activities, friends, family AND reading and writing just for the fun of it. At any given time, I was reading several books simultaneously for various classes. These days, I’m lucky if I can even manage reading one book at a time.

PAPER VS. ELECTRONIC?

Reading, I think, has become so much easier these days. There’s a lot of discussion about reading REAL BOOKS on paper versus reading ELECTRONIC BOOKS on a device, iPad, Nook, Kindle, etc. Which is best? Generally, people seem to lean towards reading real paper books as the best way to read. I myself am leaning the opposite way. I applaud electronic books and realize that my own reading habits would be much more challenging to keep up, if not for my beloved Kindle. See, where I live (in the Dominican Republic), I’ve yet to come across a real bookstore. I’ve lived here for 10 years and never seen one! Can you imagine? The thought of a city and an entire country without a bookstore never seems to baffle me.

Sure, there are some supermarkets that are selling books, but they’re mostly in Spanish and some only sell “cheap” romance novels, which don’t interest me. So, were it not for the Internet and electronic devices, I’d be having a real a tough time getting books here…or at least have to wait weeks for books to get shipped from e.g. the US to my P.O. Box here.

People say that it’s easier to read and comprehend when reading paper books. I say differently. I find it much easier to read on a device (Kindle). And I’m a big fan of the ability to highlight, underline, add notes on a device, which are then easy to search and find later on. Sure, you can highlight, underline and add notes in a paper books, but finding that one note afterwards might still take some time (if you can find it at all).

So for me, the devices win. Every time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t read paper books. I do all the time, and I notice the difference all the time.

Reading, I suppose, is like anything else that you want to do in your life in the sense that you have to MAKE TIME FOR IT. If it’s a priority in your life (which I think it should be), you’ll find the time whether it means getting up earlier in the morning or going to bed later…or downloading e.g. a Kindle app on your smartphone, so you always have a book with you and can steal a few minutes when standing in line at the supermarket, waiting at the doctor’s office, etc. I’m trying to juggle 2 books at a time (!), reading one in the morning and another in the evening…and throughout the entire day during weekends.

How are you reading and making time for it? What are you reading?

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